Little Known Facts about the Kentucky Derby

A view from the first turn. I’ll Have Another is seen here in the middle of the pack. He shortly thereafter burst through and went on to win Kentucky Derby 138. CREDIT: Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography.

 

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BY ESTEBAN ADROGUE

It’s Derby Day! And with that, we wanted to share with you 10 interesting facts about this wonderful event and the history behind it:

10 – Unfortunately, not everything in the world of racing is cheerful and exciting. In 1899, Meriwether Lewis Clark, founder of the Kentucky Derby, committed suicide just a few days prior the 25th running of this prestigious event.

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9 – In 1919, Sir Baron won the Derby, becoming the first winner in history of the Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Racing (a term that didn’t become official until the 1930’s Derby, when the New York Times used it to describe the combined wins in the Kentucky Derby, the Preakness Stakes, and the Belmont Stakes).

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8 – The first network radio broadcast of the Kentucky Derby took place on May 16th, 1925, with about 5 to 6 million thrilled fans tuning in for the anticipated race. Also, Bill Corum coined, for the very first time, the now well-known phrase: “Run For The Roses.”

Count Fleet before the race in 1943.

7 – Not even World War II could cause this beautiful sport to press pause. During 1943, regardless of the war-time restrictions, 65,000 fans gathered at Churchill Downs to see “Count Fleet” take the tittle home.

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6 – 1968 marked a turning point for the sport, as “Dancer’s Image” became the first winner to be disqualified. After the race, “Dancer’s Image” tested positive for an illegal medication. Thus, the purse was taken away from him and awarded to the second-place finisher.

Diane Crump.

5 – Stick it to the man! In 1970 Diane Crump became the first female jockey in history to ride in the Kentucky Derby race. Even though Crump finished 15th out 0f 18 horses, she sent a strong and clear message to everyone watching, and brought women to the forefront of horse racing.

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4 – During the 99th running of the Kentucky Derby, famous “Secretariat” won the race establishing the fastest finish time to date. He completed the race in just 1:59:40. Not only that, but “Secretariat” went on to win the Triple Crown, for the first time in 25 years. What an amazing athlete!

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3 – In 1977, Seattle Slew wins the Kentucky Derby and goes on to win the Triple Crown. He becomes the 10th Triple Crown winner, and only horse in history to achieve that tittle while remaining undefeated.

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2 – The early 2000s caused an array of emotions to the millions of fans all around the world. 2000 marked the third century in which the Kentucky Derby was run. Six years later, “Barbaro” would become the winner of the Kentucky Derby by six-and-a-half lengths, recording the largest victory since 1946. Unfortunately, Barbaro was injured a few weeks after, and passed away due to complications of that injury. He stole the hearts of millions of fans, and in his memory, a bronze statue was placed above his remains at the entrance of Churchill Downs Racetrack.

The finish line.

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1 – With the 143th edition of the Kentucky Derby happening today, we can’t help to look back to its very beginning and wonder; what makes the Kentucky Derby so special, so unique? It might be the fact of how little the event has change since its very first “Run For the Roses” back in 1875. As many other sports evolve and progress in many ways, the Thoroughbred Racing world has remained unchanged: same location, (Churchill Downs), same date (first Saturday in May), same breed and age (3 year old Thoroughbreds), and even similar fashion sensibilities. All these factors have shaped and molded the Kentucky Derby into what is today, and will help it withstand the test of time for many years to come.

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